All dog owners love to come home and be greeted by their furry friend. No matter how you last parted ways, whether it be a playful goodbye or a stern disciplining for digging yet another hole in the lawn, you can be rest assured that when your dog next see’s you, he’s going to be as excited as the first time you met. Coming home to such a loving greeting is a wonderful joy that never tires.
However, lately the stench of his breath hasn’t been so welcoming and the repulsiveness of it is keeping him firmly at arm’s length. If you’ve been dealing with stinky canine breath and are in search of the best dog toothpaste, then read on for everything you need to know to properly care for your dog’s pearly whites.
The issues with doggy teeth
If left without cleaning, the bacteria lingering in your dog’s mouth can lead to much more serious issues and cause your dog a lot of pain and discomfort. Most of the bacteria to be found in a dog’s mouth is natural and harmless, however, when your dog’s oral health gets neglected for large periods of time, plaque and tartar are given the opportunity to foster.
The out of balance chemistry in your dog’s mouth, combined with the warm, wet and undisturbed conditions, create the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. This can often lead to infected and painful gums, rotting and loose teeth, stomach-turning bad breath and in more serious cases; heart, liver and kidney disease.
Perhaps the biggest issue when it comes to dog oral health, is the complete lack of awareness of many owners towards cleaning their dog’s teeth. Many are unaware that products such as dental stick chews, tartar control biscuits and toothpaste for dogs even exist. They never take the time to examine their dog’s mouth cavity fully and when deterioration arises followed by bad breath, they usually assume that’s it’s an age thing or that it’s normal for all dogs.
Common attitudes are that the natural canine diet of dry food, tinned meat and cartilage chews are bound to bring on halitosis – “Well of course his breath is going to stink, he eats liver and pig ears”. However, with proper dental care your dog’s breath doesn’t have to smell and it comes down to how much care you’re willing to provide. Don’t believe us? Check out our article on how nutrition can help prevent bad breath in dogs.
Chewing isn’t all bad
It starts with the tell-tale signs of material scraps torn up into little pieces about the size of a leaf. You follow the trail of destruction, nervously anticipating the worse. Your heart beats faster and the rage boils from deep within as the scraps start to resemble something. Your running trainer, your favorite underwear or that cushion your auntie knitted for you as a house warming gift.
It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s now just another one of your belongings that lies in a heap of material ruins and saliva. You can be forgiven for the roar of anger and volley of expletives that escaped from your mouth. Dealing with chewing is probably the single most aggravating aspect of dog ownership after toilet training has been mastered.
But then again, not all chewing is bad and regular chewing, as long as it’s on a treat or his own toy, is excellent for maintaining good oral health. Not only that, chewing releases hormones that are known to relax and de-stress dogs, while also providing relief from boredom when left alone. It is also a fantastic natural way for dogs to brush their teeth.
When in the wild, dogs would tear the flesh from their prey and this action along with chewing on tougher parts of the carcass, such as bones, would naturally keep their teeth clean and aid in developing strong and healthy gums. For domesticated dogs, chowing down a bowl of soft, tinned meat doesn’t mimic the same feeding conditions of their wild cousins.
As the meals are already processed and/or in small, edible pieces, most dogs will tend to guzzle their meals whole and won’t stop to chew. Feeding with dry dog biscuits is a better alternative and will reduce dental issues by 10% more than sloppy, moist tinned food that tends to stick to the teeth.
To imitate the conditions that would occur in the wild as well as satisfying his chewing urge, raw hide chews or toys are a great solution. Providing a pig ear or a durable chew toy, such as a “Kong”, is effective in the removal of plaque and harmful bacteria that tend to cling to teeth and gums.
Caring for your dogs teeth
By the age of 3 years old, many dogs start to show signs of dental disease. This is wholly to be expected if their teeth aren’t being cared for. What condition would your teeth be in if you hadn’t brushed for 3 years? So, knowing how important proper oral hygiene is, what exactly is the best way to care for your dog’s teeth? Well we’ve already highlighted the benefits of chewing and that if you’re not already doing so, you should provide chews as part of his regular dental hygiene program and for his overall well-being. But what else can we do?
Natural dental sticks
Dog’s love human food. They whine and beg for it and plot ways to steal it when you’re not looking. So why not give it to them? Not the leftovers from your plate, but healthy, nutritious and fresh foods such as sticks of carrot or apple. Crunching down on these healthy alternatives will do wonders for your dog’s dental health as they rub and polish both inside and outside of teeth.
Your dog may not let you anywhere near him with that toothbrush, however persevering and physically removing left over food and built-up plaque by brushing is one of the best ways to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth before, then you are certainly going to struggle to start the habit by the time you have an adult dog. It is highly recommended that you start brushing your dog’s teeth in puppyhood to familiarize him with the procedure.
He’s also not going to be able to put up as much resistance as a pup and he may also learn to love it and think brushing time is a treat or a game. If you build up trust and familiarity with handling your dog’s mouth at an early age he is more likely to carry on with this habit and even pine for his favorite chicken flavored dog toothpaste.
Regular brushing is a must and brushing your dog’s teeth should be part of his overall grooming and maintenance routine. Depending on how often you brush your dog’s coat, this may suit perfectly with his regular tidy-up or you may have to brush his teeth more frequently. Just like proper oral care for humans, best practice is to brush after every meal.
However, for busy dog owners this isn’t always practical and is more likely to be viewed as a tad excessive. Brushing 2-3 times a week is a good compromise, especially if dental sticks or other chews are provided.
How to clean your dog’s teeth
- You should get your dog accustomed to having his mouth handled over the course of a couple weeks. Start with touching the mouth area then gently pulling back his gums and later looking inside his mouth. To get your dog used to having things in his mouth, try dabbing your finger in something flavorsome, such as low salt chicken seasoning, before inserting your finger into the mouth cavity.
- Start using doggy toothpaste as a treat and form a positive association with the tube of toothpaste. Toothpaste for dogs is not harmful and it can be consumed. It also comes in meat-flavors which your dog will find appetizing.
- After he’s been accustomed to having his mouth handled and the taste of dog toothpaste is familiar, you should start getting him to open wide. This is best achieved by providing a favorite toy to bite down on while you gently rub the outside of his teeth with your finger. Reward with a little bit of dog toothpaste and lots of praise.
- Now it’s time to start introducing a toothbrush. Pet stores sell toothbrushes specifically designed to fit the cavity of your dog’s mouth, however a small, soft-bristled child’s toothbrush will do just fine. Alternatively, a damp cloth wrapped over your finger can be used if your dog is extremely hesitant or fearful of the toothbrush. Be warned, some dogs will never allow a toothbrush to be used and in this instance, your finger will have to suffice. Brushing with your finger is better than nothing at all.
- Then as you would do with your own teeth, brush gently but also thoroughly. Don’t scrub hard as you’ll only hurt the gums which will guarantee you’ll never be allowed near him with a toothbrush again. Try to brush away from the gums in short, gentle strokes. You’ll also have to work fast as no matter how well behaved your dog is, he will still be finding the whole experience slightly uncomfortable. Don’t bother with trying to scrub the inside of his mouth as much as your dog’s tongue will do a good job of keeping the inside surface of his teeth clean.
- And the final step – PRAISE. Lavish you’re your dog with lots and lots of praise. Let them know how good they are for sitting still and letting you take care of them. If you feel it’s appropriate, a chew treat could round off the cleaning routine.
Warning: Never use human toothpaste to clean your dog’s teeth! Dogs don’t spit out toothpaste foam as humans do and the fluoride contained within toothpaste is poisonous for dogs and will reap havoc with their internal organs.
If you’re still not sure about brushing your dog’s teeth, we have a more detailed article on other benefits when you brush your dog’s teeth.
Best dog toothpaste
The biggest factor in deciding what toothpaste is the best for your dog is going to come down to his personal preference for flavor. You may receive recommendations for a particular brand of dog toothpaste and upon reading the back of the packet, be completely satisfied with the list of ingredients.
But if your dog doesn’t like the flavor, then you have zero chance of getting anywhere near his mouth. Luckily, there is a variety of flavors to suit every dog palette form beef to broth. The flavor your dog prefers is likely to dictate what brand you have to buy, but here is our round-up of the top three known and trusted brands of doggy toothpaste:
The CET brand isn’t strictly for dogs and can be used for cats as well. It contains a duel enzyme that works to naturally stave-off bacteria and stop the formation of plaque, while leaving your pet with fresh smelling breath. Even if your dog will not allow you to brush his teeth, just having the enzymes contained within this product present in your dog’s mouth is enough to provide antibacterial action. It also doesn’t contain any foaming agents and is 100% safe to be swallowed by your dog.
This dog toothpaste comes in several flavors including poultry and beef (yummy for your dog) and vanilla / mint (smells better to you).
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This enzymatic dog toothpaste helps to promote good oral health. It is formulated specifically for use with dogs and targets common problems such as plaque build-up, tartar formation, and gum diseases that lead to sensitive and bleeding gums as well as loss of teeth. It is non-foaming and safe to be ingested and also comes in a range of doggylicious flavors, of which chicken is usually a favorite.
For a healthy snack, Nutri-Vet have also released breath and tartar biscuits which clean teeth and freshen breathe while being an enjoyable snack from your dog. They contain active ingredients to fight tartar and their crunchy texture promotes cleaning of teeth when chewing and also helps build-up healthy gums.
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Petrodex dog toothpaste contains enzymes that don’t just slow down the development of tartar, but can actually aid in reversing its build-up and combat other problems such as yellowing of teeth. It was created specifically for use with dogs to fight against common dental problems and with on-going use, it will remove plaque and help control bad breath.
It also doesn’t foam when brushed and is safe to swallow. The poultry flavor is sure to have your dog excited about his dental hygiene.
Vet treatment – the last resort
If you’ve tried all the best dog toothpaste brands recommended and nothing has worked, then your vet will be able to provide a professional cleaning service. But be warned, this treatment is expensive and may require your dog to be put under anesthesia. If he didn’t let his beloved owner anywhere near his teeth, what chance has the vet got?
Some dogs to not react well to anesthesia and there is risk associated with the procedure. Lab testing can determine if there will be any complications with the treatment and will also allow testing for other ailments that were not known to previously exist.
Once under anesthesia, your vet will conduct a thorough examination and as part of the dental check-up, most vets will perform x-rays to detect invisible issues such as root decay. The plaque and tartar on the teeth will then be removed by using an ultrasonic scalar and scraping tools. Bacteria on the gums is removed by using a periodontal scalar.
A periodontal probe is then used to aid in the detection of dental disease as well as picking up anything else that is irregular. Provided there are no special treatments required and no teeth have to be removed, the vet will continue with polishing which is done using dog toothpaste and a rubber tipped rotating tool. The mouth cavity is then washed out and dried and a fluoride foam applied to the teeth to kill any lingering bacteria.
Dogs aren’t as likely to develop cavities as humans do. However, they are still prone to the build-up of plaque and tartar and a host of dental problems. If left untreated, these issues won’t just result in yellowing teeth and bad breath, but could lead to more fatal illnesses such as heart, liver and kidney disease. To give your dog a healthy life and avoid the trauma of these fatal diseases, or even just prevent the annoyance of sore teeth and weeping gums, brush your dog’s teeth regularly with dog toothpaste.
Don’t leave it until his breath becomes revolting or instructed by your vet. By this time, it’s often too late and the damage is done. Start early in puppyhood and then continue it regularly as part of your dog’s overall grooming routine. This way, you’re sure to keep him smiling and receiving lots of cuddles and attention as no one fears for stinky breath.